Thursday, January 31, 2008

Steroid Social Network

Another link from Slate (I know, I know — I need more diverse reading habits): this one posts Adam Perer and Chris Wilson's "social network" drawing, based on George Mitchell's report on steroid use in baseball.

It's interesting, but woefully incomplete. I'd like to see this network expanded to include information on the BALCO investigation and the accusations leveled by Canseco in his book. For example, Miguel Tejada is given a "green" label indicating that he was a peripheral player with "four degrees of separation" from core distributor Kirk Radomski. But we know as well that Rafael Palmeiro (not named in the Mitchell Report) tested positive, and that Palmeiro insisted he never knowingly took PEDs — but he had recently been given a Vitamin B-12 shot by Tejada.

We also know that Tejada's career took off in Oakland, where it all started, with the Bash Brothers. Canseco openly admits his steroid use (and is now capitalizing on it with his periodic exposés — another will hit the shelves on Opening Day) and named Mark McGwire as a partner in crime. Jason Giambi, another admitted user, started his career with the Athletics and shared a dugout with McGwire. Later in his career — after he tapped into BALCO's product offerings — Giambi played with Tejada in Oakland. Canseco went on to Texas, where he says he introduced Palmeiro to steroids.

George Mitchell should be credited for the diligence and integrity he showed in preparing his report, but let's call it what it is: a biopsy report. Mitchell found a malignant piece of tissue, he put it under a microscope, and he reviewed the hell out of it. What he didn't do was go rooting around for every lesion, every suspicious growth, every cancer cell. He worked with the sources he had, and his rigorous standards of proof would not admit every shred of rumor or innuendo (there's legal liability to consider, for crying out loud). I'm guessing a lot of players heaved sighs of relief when the report came out and their names weren't mentioned.

If this much wasn't apparent from the report itself — to be sure, when a guy produces 409 pages of fact reporting and analysis, it gives the impression of an exhaustive search — the social network drawing makes it quite clear. When I look at the Slate drawing, I can't help but think there's a much larger, integrated work lurking out there beyond its margins, and we've only managed to turn the flashlight on this small section.

It's doubtful we'll ever get to see that full picture of the "steroid social network," so we can authoritatively and completely track the PED diaspora in baseball. There is, however, more information out there than has been found to meet the George Mitchell Gold Standard for reliability. It would be interesting to see a network that takes account of the data we have and includes Canseco, McGwire, Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Greg Anderson, and Victor Conte — for starters.

So Mr. Perer, Mr. Wilson, get back to work!


Cancer Survivor said...

At our cancer survivor social network several people have commented how funny that steroids and social network are in the same sentence. After all, some steroid use can lead or aggrevate some cancers. So, many of we survivors are quite perplexed by baseball players playing Russian roulette with their lives.

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